The offseason for Major League Baseball is one of the shortest in all of sports. Regular season games wrap up around October 1. If your team makes a playoff run, add a couple more weeks. Most players say they take about a month to recover from the 162-plus game grind, and then start hitting the gym in earnest in November. By the time February 1 rolls around, the break is almost over, as pitchers and catchers must report to Spring Training in Florida or Arizona within a day or two of Valentine's Day. That gives guys about 130 days to shake off the old season and begin building themselves up for the new year.
"There's no catching up once the season starts," says Tony Watson, 28, a Pittsburgh Pirates relief pitcher who appeared in 67 games last year. Most players' offseason routines don't match the extremes of Florida Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez, last year's Rookie of the Year in the National League, or Jesus Montero of the Seattle Mariners. Fernandez lost about 25 lbs while cycling 600 miles some weeks with a peloton in Florida while Montero, a one-time top Yankees prospect, gained about 40 lbs in the offseason, something he blames on overeating. Guys want to be in good shape heading into camp, so they won't be sore in the early days, or get injured and miss out on valuable innings or at-bats when the General Manager is watching.
Players competing for a big-league roster spot literally can't afford to be tired in Spring Training, because if they are, it affects their bank accounts in a big way. The difference between a full-time MLB gig and the equivalent in Triple-A is about $500,000. Here are the offseason workout highlights of four ballplayers, just try to catch-up.
Lonnie Chisenhall, 25, third baseman, Cleveland Indians
He's not old enough to have seen Rocky IV in theaters, but Chisenhall, who is trying to take permanent hold of the third base position in Cleveland, takes pride in doing "Rocky Balboa workouts" in his North Carolina garage. "I'd have the heat cranked up and do almost two hours straight of push-ups, sit-ups, jump roping, even some of the moves out of the movie: upside-down pull-ups, some of the core moves. It's probably not as epic as riding 600 miles a week, but some of the workouts were above and beyond what the [Indians] gave me.
"I'm in the best shape I've ever been in before a season," says Chisenhall. "I'm 14 pounds lighter than I was a year ago.
Chisenhall even devised a beach-running circuit to take advantage of the wealth of sand near where he lives in Beaufort, an oceanfront town north of Wilmington, N.C. "Being able to do footwork and agility with the sand moving under your feet is definitely a plus." Chisenhall does the following sequence in about 35 minutes before heading back to his gym to continue working out for about 45 more minutes.
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Step 1: Mark off 100 yards, then sprint to the other side. Use the remaining time on the clock to recover. Repeat for 15 minutes.
Step 2: 100-yard lunges down and back. First time unweighted, next time, 30lb dumbbells. Rest at the end of each rep.
Step 3: 60- to 80-yard sprints, getting progressively faster.
Step 4: Ski-jump or gliding movements, trying to cover 100 yards.
Step 5: Sparq ladder drills, high knees, agility movements, backpedaling.